352. Taste the Pain

Ziggy was, in fact, in the men’s room. He was leaning over the sink, the giant-size Band-Aid he’d been wearing over the burn on his arm lying on the counter.

He was picking at a scab that looked like a thin slice of beef jerky glued to his arm, dark red and stiff. “The itching is driving me insane,” he said, then hissed as he pulled too hard on a segment. I could see he had already exposed about an inch of shiny pink skin.

He hissed again, then cursed. I grabbed a paper towel and handed it to him to blot on the place where he’d gone too fast and it bled.

“Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck.” He grimaced. “Got overeager, I guess.”

“Yeah.” I admit I hadn’t really resisted picking at my own scab until it was gone, but I had been too chicken to go that far. “Can I get you a new Band-Aid?”

“I guess I’m going to need one.” He sighed, and then sat down cross-legged on the floor. He looked cautiously under the paper towel. The bleeding had stopped, but it started again when he poked at it.

“Zig–”

“I’m all right!” he snapped. “Jeez. It’s not that big a deal.”

I couldn’t really blame him for being testy about it. I felt vaguely guilty that I’d healed faster, and I know that makes no sense, but that’s how I felt. “Stay here. I’ll bring you one.”

It made more sense to do it that way than for him, or the two of us, to go looking and possibly make a scene. I went out there and knew I was right, there were a lot of people around who would fuss. I didn’t want fuss. I wanted the accident to be in the past and not end up in a ton more news stories.

Who was I kidding? The accident was probably going to get mentioned in most of them. But hopefully a passing mention. I didn’t want to be remembered as the band that blew up but lived. Not that there was anything I could do about how people wrote about us.

God, I had so much shit going around in my head.

And Ziggy chose that moment to revert to his old self. I got back to the men’s room and he was gone. Yes, I searched every stall.

I went back out into the backstage area, looking for him. There were a LOT of people there. That made it somewhat harder to search. I didn’t see Jonathan either. I did catch up with Bart. “Have you see Ziggy?”

“Not in a while.” He scrunched his eyebrows. “Is something wrong?”

“Hopefully not. Hopefully he’s just having a moment.”

“Well, he’s always shown up before. Let’s not worry until the Blissmen are done.”

“Okay.”

“Hey, you know who’s here? That guitar tech you introduced me to that time in Boston.”

“Matthew? I thought he was coming tomorrow.”

“Well, he’s here. Right over there.” Bart pointed him out, in the doorway to the dressing room, talking with Colin.

I think my head’s going to explode. I thought that. At least I think I didn’t say it out loud. I made my way toward them so I could say hello and also give Colin the Ziggy heads-up.

I ran into Courtney first.

“Oh my god, you know who’s here?”

I could have given her a list, but instead I said, “Who?” since she probably meant someone else entirely.

“The Racioppis.” She saw me glance around in confusion. “Not here-here, dummy. Out there.”

“Oh.” I remember Rosie Racioppi being really nice and a girl I thought was pretty, back when I was still trying to convince myself that meant something. I had only talked to her maybe twice. We weren’t in the same circles and I was shy.

“And I’m pretty sure I saw Kevin Rosen.”

“Who?”

“That wrestler who lived four houses down?”

“Kevvy?” He was maybe two years younger then me, and had gone to Catholic school and so after a certain point I never saw him again. Even though his family lived on our street. “Wait, wrestler?”

“He came back to high school when I was a freshman because we had a better wrestling team. He made alternate on the Olympic team or something like that.”

“Huh.” I couldn’t even remember what he looked like. For that matter, I only had a vague memory of Rosie Racioppi, her hair… dark red/brown? Feathered. In a kind of hippie-print top. Or maybe I was kind of mixing her up in my head with my first impressions of Carynne back when. Huh. “Hey. Seen Ziggy?”

“I’m sure he’s around here somewhere.” She moved on in and I finally made my way to Matthew and Colin.

Matthew and I shook hands and ended up pulling each other into one of those shake-hugs. “I thought you were coming tomorrow!”

“I plan to,” he said. His hair was the shortest I’d ever seen it, and I could tell it was shot through with gray. He was more slender than I remembered, too. “But I had a chance to come down, so I did.”

“Awesome. Hey, you can give Colin some tips.”

“He already has,” Colin said.

“Hey, so, keep an eye out for Ziggy?” I said to Colin, who gave me a little nod. “What sort of tips?”

I hadn’t done this much chatting in months, I swear. They kept me occupied until it was time to go on. I went one more time to the men’s room to see if Ziggy had reappeared yet.

We hadn’t done our usual warmup. I sang a little bit by myself but I felt stupid and only did a few scales before I gave up.

Before I had a chance to get too panicked, though, there he was, standing between Bart and Christian, like he’d been there all along, in the wings, waiting to go on stage.

Fine. It was time to stop guessing what he was thinking and go to the one place where I didn’t have to guess because I knew. Onstage, I knew.


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